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Keswick 2017

Call him Derek. Some time ago - never mind how long precisely - having little or no money in his purse, and nothing particular to interest him in his appartment, he thought he would ride about a little and see the watery part of the world.

If it wasn't for Derek it would have been just another day of making a hollow living. Except for Derek. He fancied a trip and wanted the companionship of his bessie playmates from last year. Four would be good. Six would be ideal. The universal randomness of bad weather split the difference giving him five. Dub and Paul arrived outside the point and watched the early morning traffic clog up the city quays giving Dublin a coronary. JP shortly followed and jumped from his bike with a mischievious grin that was destined to last the weekend. Nuggy was going to be late and told us to meet him at the boat. We didn't have long to wait for the perspicacious pensioner the aspiring curmudgeon to arrive, have a smoke and be chomping to get going. He lead the light brigade through Dublin Port traffic. Derek can bully an articulated lorry out of his way. His bike has outlived him so a dent is an insignificant irritant. I kid you not. He lead us around an artic at the roundabout leading to the Port. If his chest had been a cannon he would have shot his heart upon it. Nuggy was not far behind and our entrance to the ferry port was quick and efficient apart from the minor brush JP had with Irish officialdom with dialogue worthy of D'Unbelievables. Port Official to JP...."Will you be ready to go in two minutes?" JP..."I'm ready to go now....". Port Official to JP......"Yes but will you be ready to go in two minutes?" Queue circular recursive conversation.... Had JP been evil minded he could easily have led the poor port official around with a carrot due to the poor dullards brain not having a reset button.

Breakfast

Bording the Jonathan Swift was swif. Being middle aged bike affording capitalists we could afford the ticket for the faster ferry. The slightly aging vessel with twin hulls. The boat. Not us. Derek staked a claim to some prime real estate seats near the breakfast counter. We loaded up breakfasts fit for a lorry driver. All except for one who had the healthy option. The crossing started off pretty smoothly and much progress was made. We took pride in passing out the larger ferry on the way evidenced by shakey fist gestures and mooning out the portholes. Karmic punishment was came like the name of the boat.....Swift. One of our unfortunate members felt a little sea sick and thinking the sick bag was a tissue tried to wipe his mouth with it as he shed the load on the floor. Thank goodness it was the healthy option. I was feeling a bit off myself so I went up on deck to join Derek in a discussion about 42. From our vantage point I could see how rough the crossing actually was. The cheap Tom Tom gps installed in the boat was having trouble keeping a straight course and we could see the zig-zag course followed in the ships wash. It wasn't long before we were saddling up again and preparing to disembark.

Convoy to Cumbria

Derek was itching to get going. As soon as the bike was unbridled he nudged it up to the top of the queue ready for the bow to drop. A burly Eastern European made him move it back. This was one juggernaut Derek was not going to bully. So we got off last. Simple instructions were issued to the five. Meet outside customs. What could go wrong. Four of us arrive only to find after War and Peace of texts that one of the lads was in a layby half way to Bangor. After the glitch was sorted and we together it was a trip through the beautiful coast road of Wales in the general direction of Warrington. Despite three satnavs and a cheap android phone with google maps, navigation was not going to be an exact science. We pulled in em....somewhere after about an hour driving for a much deserved and need McDonalds, slag, laugh and piss break and we did them all in vast quantities and enjoyed the sunshine. We fuelled up and headed off again in the general direction of Northish. Weather was excellent for taking it easy and enjoying the countryside. We stopped off in a quaint town about thirty miles from our hostel called "in the middle of nowhere", where they say owrite a lot, for a coffe and some buns. They were pure heaven and it was a good spot to watch the world pass by. At sundown we passed the great lake Ullswindewentconicrummbutterwater and it was a perfect square. As magnificent as it was long. Derek's satnav brought us to the wrong hostel which was not a problem because we got to admire Ullswindewentconicrummbutterwater twice. I was glad when we pulled up on the roadway in front of a sign saying "YHA".

YHA Keswick

We should have known we were in the vicinity of the youth hostel due to the faint but distinctive cry of an old local bird. "Yicantparkere....Yicantparkere". Nuggy, being our resident ornithologist, went down to check if it was an eagle or a buzzard. It looked like an old specimen of the latter whose laying days were well gone. Whatever it was, Nuggy managed to sweet talk it. Must have fed its ego with some crumbs. Story was, no car park for the hostel even if Derek saw one on google maps. That was her carpark and Yicantparkere.....This was the hostel's only drawback. A lack of a carpark. We had to find somewhere to squeeze in the bikes which took us a while. It would have been easier had two gobshites on GS's not parked them lengthways. The hostel was everything we wanted it to be. Clean. Comfortable. Has food and beer. Only problem is you have to be up early to put parking disks on the bikes or you get a ticket because Yicantparkere. We staked our claims to bunks and fecked off into town for a walk and food in a local pub. This was after Selfie JP managed to persuade one of the local planet savers (cyclist) to take a pic of us.

Its a Hardknott Pass...

Early rise to put the disks on the bikes before 8 a.m. and early breakfast.......for Paul. I stayed in bed until 9.30 just before breakfast finished. We headed off after breakfast, smoke break and time for Selfie JP to grab another selfie. Simple plan time. Visit lots of places in no particular order but primarily a circuitous route bringing us back where we started for food, large fart and a kip. We set off through the stunningly beautiful countryside and ended up in a pub for coffee in the middle of nowhere. The first answer to all our questions was "oilgocheck". Questions such as have you got wifi, do you serve coffee, have you any scones and do you understand simple quntum electrodynamics? Nevertheless it was a gorgeous quaint pub and we consumed copious coffee and spent plently of time laughing and plotting the course for the rest of the day. Besides the innkeeper was awaiting a wedding party of locals and no doubt he was hoping we would not occupy space in his carpark much longer. We backtracked and found a place for lunch with two pricelists. One for us and one for the local oiks with poop on their shoes. Lunch was excellent all the same and worth the slight premium. Wouldn't it be fun to take in the Honister, Hardknott and Wrynose pass?

Oh Holy Shi*e

Incredibly beautiful. Worth the effort. To be done once. Should have a health warning. I was in Wales mountain biking in the years when my lack of understanding of mortality and bone fragility permitted such things. There was a very large sign at the start of the advanced part of the bike track designed to deter the unwary, the showoff and the imbecile. It was a direct warning that the track is difficult. It said don't consider it unless your bike and your skills are up to it followed by advice to turn back now and come back when they are and don't give in to peer pressure. That is a proper sign letting you know in advance what is coming up. The only advice I got before heading over the pass was "keep your revs up on the bends. If the motor cuts you are going over." If you have four wheels or a donkey it is a lot easier. I did a search on YouTube to show the wife the beauty of the pass when I got home only to discover tons of videos of bike crashes. Most of them were by people who had proper off road bikes, not lumbering tourers like mine. If you are going to do this the scenery is well worth taking the time and effort. Bear in mind that the only way down in the event of a spill is by large helicopter. You are in the middle of nowhere with nothing but a sheep or mountain goat for wipeage when you poop yourself. No Andrex puppies to be found in this part of the world. The only thing worse than a soaking for a biker is logging the leathers. Thankfully none of us met with a spill.

Honister, Hardknott & Wrynose Pass Photos


The Voyage Home

Sunday morning was overcast and threatening rain. Up early so we could see some more sights and have a lazy an uneventful trip back to Holyhead for the boat home. Much was made of the possible routes. Transport museums. More lakes. Coast roads and many others. Breakfast was lazy enough to provide thinking time over a bowl of porridge. There were enough permutations and combinations to make a maths teacher drool. We agreed to take it handy and pull in after an hour in the saddle. Rain gear was donned as rain looked very likely. When we set off it was only a short time before the constant drizzly rain appeared. We headed off to a spot an hour down the road and pulled in to a sleepy town to get a coffee and smoke break for Derek. I can't remember the name of the town which is just as well as it deserved to be instantly forgettable. Nothing was open. Even the church was closed. We headed off again and hit traffic on the M6. We snaked through stagnant traffic for miles. When we got to the top we discovered the delay was due to an accident and the emergency services had closed the road until they moved some wreckage. Nuggy was ahead of me acting as pathfinder for myself and Paul. He politely asked the driver of a SUV to move back a few inches to let us pass. He responded with something along the lines of "why should you get past us. You should wait like the rest of us". Nuggy said we were trying to get to the boat. The reply was "we are all trying to get somewhere". Nuggy was remarkably calm even though the gent concerned was behaving like a 1960's French communist. The guy relented when nuggy said he didn't want to damage his car. I wonder what Derek would have said to them....

The delay on the M6 severely eroded our leeway. It shows the importance of leaving wriggle room in route planning. When the road was reopened we hight tailled it rapidly in the direction of Wales. We were starving and dehydrated at this stage so we stopped off for a quick coffee and in my case, a delicious cherry bakewell tart and a bucket of tea. It was a welcome break and we were soon back on the road again. After another hour in the saddle we veered off into Llandudno for another coffee. We drove all the way through and could not find a single coffee shop open. Note to Llandudno tourism......people drink coffee. Nuggy's knowledge of the area was first class and he used his skill to bring us to a toll road at the other side of the town. Everybody knows that the CRRG hates toll roads and never pays a toll. In this instance the toll was well worth it. It is a one way road along the side of the mountain. The view is only incredible and not to be missed. We paused along the way for a photo call and eats before making the run to the Holyhead. We had plenty of time to spare and the trip home was uneventful. Nobody attempted to see if the contents of their stomach would fit in a tissue on the return leg. Goodbyes were said in Dublin and here ends the second CRRG international spin. Roll on next year. Wherever it is, may it have a car park.

Photo Gallery

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Pat & Ger Visit the Peak District

Day 1

We started in Dublin and took the ferry to Holyhead. From there we took the quickest route to Glossop which is close to Manchester. Then up to Holmfirth to the Last of the Summer Wine film location. How did I manage not to see a single episode of this famous series that ran for forty years? Sid’s Cafe is still intact and open for business. Then back to Glossop to take the Snake Pass to Bamford .A very scenic route. Our first night was at the Ladybower Inn looking out at the reservoir lakes. A good watering hole. These lakes were used by the Dam busters for practice during WW 2. The Fry up was even better than Mother Hubbards.

Day 2

Lovely country roads and lanes to beautiful Edale, the starting point for the “Pennine Way “and the Bikers Inn (Hikers). This was close to Kinder Scout the highest peak in the district. Walkers everywhere. From there we headed for Castleton, a stunning ride through valleys and hills. The windy weather made it even more interesting. Next came Baslow, then on to Bakewell, the biggest town in the district.Matlock Bath seems like a nice place but we didn’t touch down there.

Our second stay was at Wheat Sheaf Inn Baslow. Oldie worldy Inn, good food too with friendly staff and the odd smelly walker. I was reminded that it might be a smelly biker? Once again a contender for fry up gold here. Beside Chatsworth House here but due to its opening times we didn’t get to visit, though we did ride through part of the estate.

Day 3

A lovely ride from Buxton to Prestbury via Macclesfield over the moors. Again a lot of wind to contend with. The road is a busy artery over the hills. Never the less I would recommend this route. We then headed for our third and last stay in Chester. Here we stayed at Roomzzz, a modern tidy apartment type room. Chester lived up to its reputation with its lovely buildings, Castle ruins, Roman amphitheatre and river walks. It’s said to have the prettiest race course in the UK. It’s located within a stone’s throw from the town centre and bordered by the river Dee. A continental job here (breakfast) A quick spin back to Holyhead to catch the return ferry.

The Honda performed well and got the thumbs up from the missus. No flies in the teeth burnt skin or numb crotch. 501 miles clocked up door to door. SEE PHOTOS BELOW





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The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new. Del was bored. He had a motorbike, lots of biker friends and weektly trips to sate his need for the aforementioned and yet there was something missing. More bends perhaps? Different bends? Foreign bends? Careful, meticulous and lengthy planning was initiated. There could be no rush. Everything must be planned with military precision. Just like a presedential campaign. The right moment had to be chosen to announce the plan. A wrong move and his brainchild would be subject to the usual CRRG derision and result in solitary cornering. What is such skill without friends to admire them...........from behind......and afar.

The day of revelation of his great invasion plan had arrived. At the usual CRRG spin to YAFA, breakfast consumed, Del searched in vain for the back of the envelope. Like all good generals, in the absence of his plan he decided to wing it or lose the opportunity to strike and fade into oblivion. With confidence befitting a UKIP leader, the plan was unleashed. "Eh lads, I'm thinking of going to Wales for a weekend, anybody interested?". The lads briefly glanced with incredulous interest at the audacity of such a plan. Details were sought to allay their disbelief. Del summarised, "hop a ferry from Rosslare to Fishguard, drive to Snowdonia, visit an old slate mine, next day drive to Holyhead and boat home and we can find a place to kip along the way, meet at camp NMK at 6.45AM sharp". Acknowledging his vision, Dub signed up straight away. After some thought and the lack of all Ireland football tickets, Paul was next and shortly followed by JP. The four horsemen were bringing their apocalypse to Wales.

Timeshare Bike.......

Invasion day arrived. The fleet merged at various points along the route to meet general Del sharp at 6.45AM. Dub and Paul arrived at the appointed Topaz service station at camp NMK to find JP already there. Not a sign of Del to be seen. Speculation was rife amongst the troops. Slept it out. He was at the wrong garage, the one across the street perhaps. The most likely explanation was he was waiting to make a grand entrance to inspect the troops and have a smoke. The truth was more bizarre. A Yamaha Fazer pulls into the station. We all thougth, "typical Mick, decided to go at the last minute, keep stum and steal the general's thunder". The dismount came with panache. The rider approached and removed his helmet to reveal............Del. It transpired that his trusty Pan had panned and his best mate Mick lent him his Yamaha on condition it came back in better condition and there were to be hourly reports sent back on the state of the bike with timestamped pictures for evidence. Del had a timeshare bike. Mick would have been proud of Del's mission statement. "We are going to Wales for sightseeing and to enjoy ourselves. We will stick to the speed limit and enjoy the scenery as it unfolds and we will all get back in one piece". Oratory befitting Cicero.

A Pensioners Trick......

We made short work work of the trip to Rosslare on the bright but slightly chilly morning and admired the unhurried Irish sunrise along the way. We stuffed the bikes with petrol and proceeded to the ticket office to book passage to Aldershot. Del did the negotiating. The ferry capable of doing the Kessel run in less than 200 parsecs was unavailable. Aldershot was out so Del got a reduction in the fare to Wales. I thought he used a Jedi mind techinque but instead it was the tried and trusted Irish Pensioners trick. Either way the few quid was saved to go towards the hearty breakfast on the ferry.

French Polished Sea....

The crossing was smooth and uneventful. If the ferry pitched yawed or rolled by as much as a degree I would be very surprised. We even tried to spot it once or twice. It was as if someone French Polished the sea for us. The only give away was the faint throb of the ancient diesel engines somewhere down below where foot passengers were stored. It was either that or JP's bowels after the breakfast. The time was passed by promenading around the upper decks and listening to stories from a former Mountie on how 90 year olds play rugby. He left out the bit about bibs and incontinent shorts.

Twisties

Disembarking was relatively easy for those without short legs and light bikes which would have been an advantage going up a very steep ramp with a nasty angle on it. Derek was disappointed there was traffic on it. He now dug out his smart phone with the route all programmed in. Now the observant reader will have spotted this coming. His timeshare bike had no mounting for phones or satnavs. Not a ball joint in sight. The only ones he brought were tucked safely in a sock in his jocks to keep them warm. That said, he did not need it to find his favourite landmark. He brought us along the coast road via a cornucopia of curves, a bevvy of beautiful bends, curvacious corners and a treasure trove of twisties. Since I returned I phoned my sponsor, Alan, and am back at A.A. (Alliteration Anonymous). We passed through many a quaint Welsh village and Derek even ferrited out a nice place for lunch before heading on to our digs.

Thunderbird 5

Now that Derek's smartphone was as mental mobile, I had to put our destination into the satnav. Welsh place names are always typed with the "L" key jammed. We were heading to Dolgellau, spelt D oul hack snort spit hock cough ow. Sounds like it anyway. I got through an entire pack of Mentholyptus over the next two days to clear that up. My poor satnav thought I was a Klingon. We took our time getting to our lodgings. There was no choice because the lads were following me for a change. The weather was ideal for biking and our pace was perfect for admiring the best scenery any country could offer. Thunderbird 5 was clearly visible so John Tracey fed the coordinates for Kings Hostel direct to my satnav. That last mile or so up to the place was suitable for GS riders so we took it handy. Thank god it was dry.

Bikes were soon abandoned in an orderly manner and before we knew it, Mick had us checked in and booked for dinner, drinks and breakfast. Food, gargle and beds are well up to standard fit for visiting four horsemen of the apocalypse. We had a generous dinner, plenty of drinks and a hearty breakfast with an abundance of extra beans and still had change from a farthing. I don't drink so I retired early but was kept awake by the sounds of the other hosemen belching, snoring, farting and scratching the contents of their clacker bags. JP was first to rise and complained that he was kept awake by the three of us belching, snoring and farting. Paul arose next and complained he could not sleep due to the badly tuned band of belching, snoring and farting. Derek wondered what all the fuss was about. He turned off his hearing aid.

Derek was first to the courtyard with a towel he brought specially to clean the timeshare bike. JP gave his the once over while Paul did not need to as the dirt was afraid of the brand new Yammy. I wasn't arsed. We left the track slowly and headed to D oul hack snort spit hock cough ow. It was closed. Derek found a place open where he could load up with water and smokes. I loaded another unpronouncable place into the sat nav and we headed off down country roads to half way to wherever it was. We passed the dog asleep in the middle of the road and stopped in a small town packed full of Sunday drivers. We dumped the bikes by the side of the road and had coffee in a small cafe. Beautiful spot full of tree huggers, English Toffs, lapsed hippies and old women with dogs named Topsie. Derek's plan was to visit the Llecwedd slate mine so off we went back up the same road, passed the sleeping dog in the middle of the road and got lost.

Dying for a S....

We were smack bang in the middle of Blaenau Ffestiniog arguing over which direction to take when I had a glimmer of inspiration. It turned out that the mine was in the Points of Interest section on my satnav so once I selected it, it brought us right to the entrance. I got lost somewhere between the entrance and the pay in office. If you are ever in the vicinity of Gwynedd a visit and tour of this mine is well worth the effort. The tour we received four hundred feet below the surface was entertaining, terrifying, moving and edifying. Describing it here would not do it justice. Go and see it for yourself. I intend to return and see it again someday. When we surfaced the lads went to the coffee shop. I went looking for somewhere quiet. After all the excitement, I was dying for a sh***. When I got back I was surprised the lads waited that long and they even found me a mince pie.

It was Shut...

Llechwedd Slate Mine was the highlight of the trip. After that it was a slow coast back towards the ferry. We stopped of in Betws-y-Coed for a smoke break and stayed a while enjoying the procession of cruising old cars, Harleys and all manner of transport out for a leisurely spin. Apparently this happens every Sunday in Betws-y-Coed. Caernarfon Castle was punched into the sat nav and off we went. The scenery on that back road through the valley was jaw droppingly stunning. The road was full of bends. Derek had multiple orgasms. He was taking it handy because Mick told him that the timeshare FJR doesn't take corners properly. When we arrived at Caernarfon Castle, it was shut. It was starting to rain so Derek gave me a list of waypoints along the coast route to Holyhead.

A little Rain...

We gave ourselves plenty of time to get to Holyhead. The obligatory pint was consumed before a leisurely boarding. The trip home was as pleasant as the trip out, ferry food was acceptable, the company was excellent and the water was smooth. Derek confided in us that he repaired the problem with his timshare bike. It now takes corners. To summarise, the planning was the work of pure genius. Turn up with a bike. Bring a towel and a change of jocks, petrol and drink money and let rip. Keep the plan simple. There was a minor incident in Betws-y-Coed which was handled with stoicism and panache befitting a CRRG member. The details of this are staying in Wales. It is sufficient to say that a little rain falls on every trip but the people involved deserve the utmost admiration for the way they handled themselves. I salute them.

I am eagerly awaiting Derek's next invasion.

Dub.


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CRRG 2ndAnnual Roadtrip (Convoy) to Christy & Ger

Rosslare - August 2016

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man in posession of a good bike must be in need of travelling companions. There is nothing comparable to the unique comeraderie between biking companions. It's a question often asked by non-bikers and those new to powered two wheeled transport to explain this visible bond between members of the biking fraternity. The casual nod, the flash of the headlight to warn of approaching speed vans, the brief lift of the leg from the peg and the willingness to stop and lend a hand. Those who have been on bikes for a significant portion of their lives accept it for the gift that it is.

An event that reminds us all of this in the CRRG and brings us together in the greatest posse of bikes on a trip for the year, every year, is the annual convoy to Christy & Ger's holiday home in Rosslare. An unfortunate accident on the bike brought a sudden end to his attendance on rideouts. Thankfully he was made a near full recovery and still has an interest in bikes and looks forward to his pals gathering together to wish him well and eat all his wife Ger's food.

Our trip began at the usual lager point in Tallaght, Dublin with the order issued from on high to arrange the 13 bikes in a straight line at the garage, facing the same direction with the front wheel forward. It should have been known by now that organising bikers, most of whom are Celtic Bikers with the occasional Italian and Pole thrown in, is a task akin to attempting to get a pack of deaf hunting hounds to sit. The result looked like a backstreet motorcycle mechanics garage on a Monday morning after advertising a special for couriers. Bikes abandoned everywhere. The only difference is ours are slightly better maintained. After the obligatory wait, the smoking and non-smoking groups merged for the trip down to Ballon for breakfast in The Forge, one of our favourite places on the planet for breakfast mainly due to the lady that runs it loves to see us coming and has tables reserved for us. Although there was sixteen of us, breakfast was up to the usual delicious standards and ran like clockwork. One would imagine that at this stage the parking would have improved as there was acres more space for bike positioning. You can judge for yourselves but before you do, just remember that this is not all of the bikes. At least two are out of the picture and at the other side of the car park. It can be clearly seen that there is some debate on merits of proper ethical parking.

Bellys full, armoured jackets and leggings adjusted and lower bowel gas ejected, we headed off to Rosslare. We had ideal Irish biking weather. It was like John's humour.....dry. Apart for the occasional small town traffic jams, the trip south was enjoyable generally speaking, good time was made by all to our next lager point, Lady's Island, Rosslare. Our Lady's Island is a location of zero significance or interest to anyone who is not retarded or who is not in posession of a restricted bike and a learner's tabard. It has an ice cream shop, a church and a toilet. The toilet was shut due to bad aiming on the part of the locals, we had no time for ice cream and nobody was being married christened or dead. There is an old Gaelic word which eloquently describes such a place............KIP. How Alan found anything interesting to photograph while streatching his legs I will never know. The sermon of the day was a quote from Catherine of Sienna. "If you are what you should be, you can set the world on fire". Well I was what I should have been..............bored, but I left my arson kit at home. We did however rendezvous with our good friend Johnners and headed off. I made good use of my time management skills to take the following photograph. I wonder if it is divine inspiration for Ireland in a post Brexit era.

If I could quote Einstein, that would be really clever. To paraphrase his general theory of relativity applied to bikers, time spent bored, motionless and in a place of heavy gravity (kip to us Dubliners) passes slowly and those sophoric minutes seem like aeons while time spent moving on a motorcycle passes all too quickly in proportion to its enjoyment. So we set off after a few thousand years and headed to Christy's gated holiday camp. Praise be to Alan up to now as he achieved something more wonderous than Hannibal leading an army of elephants over the alps to do battle with the Romans. He lead the entire convoy from Dublin to Our Lady's Island without losing the last rider from from view in his rear view mirror. It's even more phenomenal than getting a four Euro chicken from Aldi when you consider the mirror on those huge BMW bikes is so small.


After a brief spin through the town, we were there. All ten arrived to clear immigration and security to get passed the locked gates of Christy's paradise. I did say ten bikes three bikes including The Leader who had been there before, who never gets lost and had a pillion for direction and a satnav, got lost. They never spotted the event horizon and vanished into a black hole or un-signposted Irish bog roads and to make things worse, nobody noticed. After security clearance, the gates began to slide open slowly to the theme tune of Thunderbirds running through my head and the sound of twelve snarling bikes ready to launch at Mondello Park. We revved the nuts off the bikes to scare all the kids but the louder we revved the more the little tikes enjoyed it. We carefully arranged the bikes artistically to look a Salvador Dali painting. The welcome we got from Christy, Ger and all the inhabitants was truly legendary. It was heartening to see so many, the majority in fact, of CRRG members taking the time to visit one of our own. Even the neighbours helped Ger with baking the cakes and making the sandwiches. I had sent word ahead that they would all be murdered in their beds and their children sold into slavery if there wasn't proper tribut paid and respect shown. All the good stuff was eaten quickly or stuffed into panniers before Alan arrived. Gallons of tea was served to all by Ger along with apple tart worthy of someone who sits on the Iron Throne. Alan presented Christy with a memento of the occasion and a special guest turned up to wish him well.

We spent a couple of hours enjoying Christy and Ger's hospitality and catching up on all the goss. For me it was the highlight of the years trips so far. Unfortunately, Christy's mobile home was not big enough to cater for fourteen smelly bikers and me so the time came to leave. Daragh was delighted as he gained second opportunity to try and scare the children. This time the soundtrack was the Imperial March from Star Wars as we hit the long road back to Dublin. Next years trip can't come soon enough.

Dubmark


CRRG Dublin - September 2013 road trip to France and Spain

Saturday 31/8/13

The group headed off on a beautiful summer Saturday morning from the Red Cow in Dublin to board the Pont Aven Ferry ship in Cork. Motorbikes loaded to the hilt with sleeping bags, tents, tools, gas stoves, GPS and the best torch. We had an easy drive down with some obligatory smoking stops. We arrived in Cork without a hitch and in plenty of time. When we arrived we obeyed the instructions of the Ferry Company and queued in plenty of time for the 4pm departure. While chit chatting, more smoking and pre-empting our adventure ahead someone appeared from the masses of enthusiastic travellers. Was it a bird? was it a plane? no, no it was the seasoned traveller Mick O'Shea who decided to surprise us and join up on the trip. What a great start to the trip we were all delighted to see him. The banter was fantastic and the stories of how Mick had been able to keep this piece of info from the other travellers and how it was only finalised on the last minute and as a result poor Mick had to do with a sleeping chair rather than a snug cabin with a 'bed'. The Ferry company were very organised and before we knew it the motor bikes were all on board with bikers standing on the deck drinking beer and watching the rest of the 4 wheeled vehicles load up. Once we set sail there was nothing for it but to get another pint and do some sunbathing and shoot the breeze. A couple of hours later the captain over the PA mentioned that there were whales to be seen on the port side of the ship. Wow I had never actually seen a whale up close and it did not happen that day either. I did get some good views of the whales blowing jets of water into the air through their blow holes but unfortunately none really surfaced above the sea. Never the less the excitement was great with every onlooker trying to get a picture of anything at all. Later we had a grand dinner in one of the cafe restaurants with everyone treating themselves to a nice French desert.


Sunday 1/9/13

We awoke early packed up our belongings and headed down to join the rabble of other travellers heading to their cars, bikes and motor homes. On exiting the ship we were delighted to be welcomed by bright blue skies. We headed off on some nice country roads and through some shaded forested roads which reminded us of how early in the morning it was because in the shade it was bloody freezing. Passed through some tiny sleepy towns and eventually came across a beautiful little sunny cafe which was also a bakery shop. We stopped there and had coffee, croissants, fresh bread and butter. Absolutely beautiful. The owner actually spoke to us and told us that he had spent a 6 month stint in Galway working in a hotel to improve his English. After the photos were taken and the smokes finished up we travelled on to the island of Quiberon (On the suggestion of French Biker we met on the Ferry). Quiberon proved to be a little disappointing including lunch in Casino/restaurant which was a little stuffy for our casual dress and holiday frame of mind. Undeterred we made our way to the town of Pornic which was Approx 320 KM down the road from Roscoff. The trip was sunny and enjoyable and after some nice sight seeing stops we eventually reached our first campsite via an amazing bridge which I don't believe we have a picture of as there were no great stopping points on either side. The campsite was great with all of the mod cons including swimming pool, bar, restaurant, clean hot showers and did I mention a bar? Anyway we parked up the bikes, donned the shorts and t shirts, pitched the tents and started the relaxing part.

Dinner included alcoholic beverage and was all very pleasant as the sun remained out till quite late in the evening. Derek bought a rare vintage bottle of wine on the way as a treat and offered us all a sample as we enjoyed a natter around the campsite before bed. Before the night was over Mick proceeded to spill over the bottle of expensive wine in the campsite dirt and Derek retaliated by stamping on Mick's glasses. We were fortunately able to repair them the following morning with gaffer tape and cable ties. They were after all his driving glasses.


Monday 2/9/13

The next morning we packed up and drove to the town of Pornic for breakfast. OMG what a beautiful harbour town bustling with people in the sunny weather. We parked up by the harbour and had coffee and crepes for breakfast. After that we took a short bike trip around the town The journey to the island of Ile de Re our next destination was Approx 200 KM away on a mix of motorway and beautiful country roads. The guys will remember the green canal we drove along for a couple of km's . I can only imagine what the green viscous fluid might have been. Suffice to say the be no fishes in there. Our first sighting of Ile de Re was when it's amazing access bridge appeared ahead of us. This beautiful bridge is the only way on and off the island and cost ⁡ mere 3 eurs to tr⁡vel across. This island was really beautiful and the plan was to stay for two days. We were so hot and tired when we arrived that we pulled into the first campsite we came across. Again a beautiful campsite and this time right next to the beach. Myself , Mick and Derek took to the beach once the bikes were parked up and tents pitched while Dermot and Clare decided that they would explore the town and hopefully find a nice spot to eat dinner later on. We had a beautiful meal in a restaurant across the road that night. On the way home while walking through the campsite we borrowed some plastic chairs to enhance our campsite banter and share the wine and choco purchased earlier by Dermot and Claire. Chairs were one of the few things we forgot to bring with us. Except for Derek that is. He had a great little chair. In fact we had to lift him out of on many nights and put him to bed.


Tuesday 3/9/13

Woke to another beautiful sunny morning and took the bikes out to find somewhere nice for breakfast. We discovered the village of La Flotte. Another great find. Such a beautiful harbour village bustling with tourists. We had a breakfast of coffee, baguette and butter/jam, juice and croissant for something like a fiver. The views and athmosphere alone were worth more than that. Following breakfast we explored the village and came across a quaint food market set in the shade of what was once an old church cloister. We bought some fruit and healthy stuff there with a view to combatting all the unhealthy but yummy food and drink we had consumed up till then. In our minds it was going to undo all the damage :) We mounted the bikes again and travelled further around the island passing through more beautiful villages until we came to St Martin which was calling us for a coffee break. We located ourselves at another scenic spot again by the harbour and ordered coffee.....great. By this stage it was getting very hot so decided to travel back to camp and crash out in the sun. We travelled back in T shirts....... Beautiful. The rest of the day was spent either in the shade of the campsite or in the case of Mick and Mark...on the beach which they had all to themselves. We drove back to La Flotte that night and had dinner there and adjourned to the campsite later on to tryout our newly acquired seating.

Wednesday 4/9/13

We were on our way to Arcachon. A trip of about 270km. We took the most scenic route and to save on mileage and for a bit of fun we decided to take the car ferry from Royan to Soulac sur Mer. Soulac had a great laid back seaside resort feel about it so we decided that it was the right place to stop and have lunch. I can do this life.... What a great day and we on occasion had to escape the heat by retreating to the shade. Because of all the wandering and sight seeing and smoking breaks we took during the day we arrived in Arcachon later than expected and wuddent you know the GPS let us down when trying to find our campsite. We eventually got speaking to a nice French lady who put us straight. The camp site was gorgeous and was located at the base of the Dune de Pyla which is the tallest sand dune in Europe. Mick and Derek conquered the monster dune the following morning before coffee.
Derek off for a walk
Dune de Pyla
Descending Dune de Pyla

Thursday 5/9/13

Mick had a little mishap this morning with his bike sliding from under him on a sandy path while on the way out off the campsite. Sprained wrist, scratches on shoulder and forearm damaged some ribs but more importantly scratched pannier and wing mirror not to mention nice new helmet. He was not deterred in the slightest though and limped along undeterred. With more duct tape and cable ties we were on the road again. This time to San Sebastian and a journey of Approx 230 KM. The temperature decreased from a sizzling 37 degrees to 24 in San Sebastian. This is a city we should have spent more time in but unfortunately no sooner had we finished our coffees the local police threatened us with fines of 90 euro each for blocking an entrance and then moved us on. NOTE TO SELF…don’t park in entrances in the future. The campsite in the mountains of San Sebastian was a real find and had a great bar and restaurant. We were limited however to two tents per pitch. Mark opted for separate pitch while Mick & Derek shared the one pitch. However next morning Mick & Derek discovered that a lone German Biker pitched his tent on their site during the night. German guy told them he was on his way to Portugal which was the only remaining country in Europe he hadn't visited. Dam Germans. They are so organised. Bet he didn't drink either.....
Coffee in San Sebastian…Why are those cops looking at our bikes?
Campsite in the mountains just out of San Sebastian.

Friday 6/9/13

Beautiful road to Jaca. A military town set in the lower Pyrenees. On the way we pulled into the most remote gas station in the world and met some blokes who we later labelled jokingly as the drug dealers. There were three of them all from England. Two were celebrating a birthday within a week of each other and had bought new bikes for themselves to celebrate the occasion, a new Triumph Tiger and a Harley. The third guy was driving a very flash Maserati (hence the drug dealer label). They were travelling through Europe at speed and kept in touch with the fast car by way of bluetooth. Basically the guys on the bikes spent their time chasing after the mad guy in the Maserati. Campsite in Jaca was great. Out in the middle of nowhere with its own swimming pool and bar /restaurant...mind you the menu was limited and probably a little suspect after seeing the kitchen and the boozed up chef. None the less we ordered pizzas and chips and beer and survived. Pints were only €2.50. There was some rain that evening but thankfully it eased off later on to allow us dry access to our tents.
I’m wrecked man….
Linings from the Helmets and gloves being dried out over electric fire.

Saturday 7/9/13

We woke to the sound of deafening thunder and the lashing of rain on the tents. As I lay there at 7am the rain got heavier and heavier and the thunder louder. I knew that I needed to pack up some stuff in the tent and move it out before I started leaking. When I moved off my mattress to pack it away I had cause to lean onto the floor of the tent . It was like prodding a water mattress. My finger sunk at least two inches into the waterproof groundsheet before hitting hard ground. Jeese the rain was coming down so hard it had not time to soak into the ground and my tent had a river flowing beneath it. Luckily I was able to move everything across to the dryer wash room and avoid a catastrophe. The other guys followed suit soon afterwards. It was at that moment we decided that our next night here was going to be in a chalet..and it was for only 60 euros. When the rain eased down we pulled our tents down and threw them over the lines in the wash room to dry off. We then headed into town for some breakfast . During breakfast the heavens opened again and I got some great video of the streets turning into rivers. The fire brigades were out in force too loading sandbags on low lying door ways and pumping out flooded areas. There was an amber weather warning in place but Derek thought it a gud idea to head off into the Pyrenees for some sight seeing.....Bad idea. About 20 Km out the road the heavens opened again. We were getting soaked and pulled into a gas station for some shelter. After a while we moved on from the shelter of the station...(mention no names) and were no more than 2 km down the road when we had more thunder, lightening and a massive shower of hail stones. They were so big and hard coming down that they were hurting our hands and arms even through the gloves and rain gear. We had to take shelter again as the roads were now treacherous and white. The hail was ripping the leaves and small shoots from the trees. What an amazing site. Glad we had our tents lifted up and drying out on the wash room lines and that we were staying in a nice dry chalet tonight. Anyway on night two in Jaca we had some dinner in the campsite. Mark went in to check on our tents and helmets in the wash room. Tents were nearly dried out but Mark and Derek had left their helmets on a line just below a leaky roof and ended up with two helmets full of water...bummer. Anyway we bought ourselves 4 great bottles of local wine in the reception for €3.50 a bottle and spent the rainy night in the chalet havin the craic, drinking wine and drying out our helmets. The receptionist even came over to share a glass of wine with us.

Sunday 8/9/13

Left Jaca and had brief stop for breakfast of cheesy slices of toasted baguette in a nice alpine looking hotel cafe. Met an English couple there who had come through the Pyrenees in the direction we were heading. They said that they had driven in 4 hours of rain…..but we were up for it. We headed off and went through a long tunnel (Approx. 10K) as we emerged from the Tunnel Derek indicated that his bike had lost power. We promptly rang the breakdown service and while waiting for a call back Mick discovered that Derek had accidentally hit the cut off switch (a senior moment). Now we were ready to roll again. Entered the Pyrenees and as the weather was wet we had a challenging ride but none the less beautiful. We did stop briefly for a few photos beside an old fortress. Continued on our way and entered France and travelled on motorway until we reached Arcachon. Think there were some people along the way that knew us cause on a couple of occasions in the rear view mirror I could see their camera flashes presumably to capture the grace and speed with which we managed the lovely wide French roads. We booked into campsite for 1 night and had a pizza in the restaurant on site followed by a few beers. Jeese the booze here is not cheap @ 5.50 a pint.
Airing my towel in Arcachon.

Monday 9/9/13

Left Arcachon and headed back up to the beautiful island of Ile De Re once more. We checked out a different campsite fairly close to La Flotte village. Went for a meal in St Martin in a restaurant overlooking the sea. Bought some wine in the supermarket (4 bottles) and headed back to camp for yet another campsite session.

Tuesday 10/9/13

Had breakfast in La Flotte and decided to tour the island with stop offs in a few places. Went for meal in a restaurant called Pinnochio’s that night and Derek treated himself to a fine steak. Came home in the dark with more wine for more campsite drinking and a chat about the days events.

Wednesday 11/9/13

Went to beach at La Quarde and bought food and wine in local supermarket and had lunch on the beach. Another relaxing day was had by all. Went for meal that night in a restaurant we had been to before at the entrance to the island and we had some great Leff beer with our food. Back at the campsite during our wine tasting Mark met some Irish folk from Wexford and Donabate with their dog and invited them to join us. They brought over more wine and I forget the detail after that...........

Thursday 12/9/13

With some sore heads we left Ile De Re sadly for the last time this year :( and headed off to Le Mont Saint-Michel . Nothing to report along the way as we stuck to the motorway to make up for our extra day on Ile De Re. We arrived in Mont St Michel around 5pm and found a very nice campsite. Camping for the night would have been 13 euro each but on account of Mick being so delicate a committee decision was taken to rent a Chalet @ 28 euro each. Good decision as night was wet. Took a spin out to see Mont St Michel monument/site and took some photos in the late evening sun. On yet another occasion during our trip we were told to move on as we had broken all the rules and took the bikes right down to the town instead of using the shuttle bus….sure how wud we know we were tourists!!!
Le Mont Saint Michel

Friday 13/9/13

We had booked breakfast at campsite (Mont St Michel) (very civilised) and enjoyed it in the comfort of the site restaurant while watching the rain falling on the swimming pool outside. The misty rain did ease off and we headed back to the town of Mont St Michel this time obeying the rules and parking in the designated place and taking the shuttle bus. It was in fact a very organised system with secure bike parking and a free shuttle bus to the town. The visitors centre also hosted a museum and security lockers for those not wanting to carry their valuables around with them. We went into the town and did all the tourist things including buying fridge magnets and paying 10 euro for coffee and a slice of cake. What a magnificent feat of human engineering was this town. At around midday or there abouts we set off for Roscoff and while on the way stopped at roadside café and came upon a group of 42 Dutch Riders on their way to Ireland. They are all members of “Railtoerweekend” Group. Mark met the organiser Teun and arranged meeting up back in Dublin following their tour of Ireland. We arrived in Roscoff early and decided to visit the town. Stopped for a beer and walk about. Surprised what a nice quaint town Roscoff actually is with lots of pastry shops and cafes to dream away the days. After a long wait in the car park and much banter with the crazy Dutch bikers we finally boarded. Mark & Derek reserved a table in the Posh restaurant and we enjoyed a nice meal there and of course ate way too much food ....cause it was all so beautiful.... Unfortunately we were so wrecked afterwards we had to hit the hay by 11pm.
Crazy Dutch Bikers having coffee on a warm but overcast morning on our way back to the ferry in Roscoff.
Main course in the posh restaurant on the Pont Aven.
Beautiful starter from the Posh Restaurant on the Pont Aven. Did I mention that we all had two starters before main course. Well we were on our holidays.

Saturday 14/9/13

Disembarked at around 10.30am and headed out to first Petrol Station in Shanbally. After fill up and some breakfast rolls we set off for Dublin with the prearranged plan to stop in Urlingford for last coffee break. Mick & Derek said goodbye to Mark and left for Dublin. Mark in the meantime was heading to Johnstown, Kilkenny to meet his family.
Steaming our way into Cork. Beautiful.

Notes for reader:

The trip brought us through north western France along the west coast by the Bay of Biscay over the Pyrenees and into northern Spain. We covered approx 3,506 KM during the two weeks. The bikes caused us no trouble except for a blown bulb in Marks headlight and Derek pretending that his bike was broken down when in fact he just had the emergency stop switch turned on. BTW Derek also got locked outa his phone and it was only after 48 hours and some official calls home that the PUK up was sorted. If you notice that the above report has an unusually high reference to beer and wine its only because we drank a hell of a lot. Mick is currently recuperating in Balbriggan after some minor mishaps along the way and Mark had to start back in work on Monday.

Notable facts;

Mick has the best stove with its built in ignitor.
Mark has the best torch.
Derek has the best boozing chair..You can’t fall off it.
Mick won’t be wearing shorts on the or near his bike again.
Derek has made a note to himself to keep away from the kill switch on his bike.
Mark will bring more than one pair of underpants on the next trip.
People should not fiddle with the settings on their phones unless they know what they are doing otherwise they will PUK things up.
Definition: Glamping as I understand it means glamorous camping. Mark reckoned that the most useful pieces of kit he brought with him and served him the best were his mini hammer for the tent pegs, his Hein Gericke PVC stuff bag and his self inflating mattress. Of course can’t forget the duct tape which got us all outa a bind from time to time.
Although it tended to be a little temperamental on occasion and sometimes brought us down the weirdest of roads the GPS was also an invaluable little box of tricks…except for that time in Arcachon.
Bikes gave us no problems and just chewed up the miles and the heavy loads they were burdened with.
Mark and Jason met some of the Dutch guys as arranged on the boat earlier in the week. They met Teun the group Leader and Cornelis the sweeper bus driver in the Quays bar in Temple bar and had a great night discussing Ireland, the economy, the Nederland’s and all things Bikes. Real nice guys and they invited the lads on their next road trip to Turkey in 3 years time to which Jason and Mark willingly accepted.
This is a general map of the places we either stayed or passed through.

Mark

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Mick & Derek's Tour de France

2,423 miles (4,038k)

26/4 Day 1 (Fri)

Kilmacanogue to Rosslare and Ferry crossing at 21.30

We began our epic journey in Kilmacanogue at 6pm. Derek’s Bike attracted the usual admiring glances from the Yummy Mummies.

As we sat sipping our coffees outside the filling station two girls in a Mini (car of course) stopped to ask us to check their tyre pressure, Derek completed a quick inspection and assured them they were fully inflated (tyres of course). After our coffee and smoke we headed off towards Rosslare on the first leg of our adventure with another brief smoke stop in Ferns.

We arrived at the Ferry in good time and having driven up a very steep ramp parked our bikes. We were joined by three other bikers (French riders and WAGS) on the ferry. We were given a piece of carpet to protect the seat of bike from dirty straps. Bike owners have to secure their bikes on this ferry.

The crossing was calm and we managed a few pints in the bar, we also got duty free cigs. The cabin was fairy luxurious with separate bunks either side of the window. (see photo)

27/4 Day 2 (Sat)

We arrived in Cherbourg Port at 16.30 and drove out the route towards Paris as far as Bayeaux, a small town near Caen. While powering towards our destination we noticed a brief flash on the roadside which was one of many speed cameras we were to encounter on our travels. What the heck, no chance of being caught unless we are stopped by the police.

We stayed in a nice campsite Chateau de Martragny near Bayeaux. It is run by an English woman and although not officially open till 6 May we were allowed to camp for the night (7.50 each). Lady was also hosting a French wedding in the Chateau and apologised in advance for any late music etc. An elderly English couple (even older than Derek) in a caravan were also staying on the site. After setting up tents we headed into Bayeaux about 5k away for a pizza and a few beers. Derek proudly displayed the tricolour on his bike.


Campsite in Chateau Martragny

28/4 Day 3 (Sun)

The plan for today was to head for Bourges via Le Mans & Tours.

This was motorway driving all day with little to report . My first encounter with Tolls resulted in my bike overbalancing at one toll. However I managed to keep it slightly upright until Derek came to my rescue. In a moment of frustration and cursing I said “I’m heading back to Cherbourg”. We stopped a few times in roadside cafes for food and smokes. Derek’s command of French ensured that I got my café au lait and the usual roll. We arrived in Bourges around 5pm and had difficulty in finding the campsite that we intended to stay in overnight. Eventually we found “a campsite” along the river but on close inspection we noted that this was more of a halting site than campsite. As it was getting late we opted for a hotel (Best Western) in the old part of town with secure bike parking. Feck all places to eat here but eventually we found another pizza joint and for the second night in France we opted for pizza. Got a call from my son Dermot to tell me that The Foreign Legion Camerone Day in St Christol had been held on Sat and therefore our journey to Saint Christol on Tues 30/4 would be in vain. He did suggest that we opt for Aubagne on Wed 31/4 which would be open to the public. (more about that later)


Bourges

29/4 Day 4 (Mon) (Morning in Bourges)

After breakfast, a short walking tour of Bourges (emphasis on short with “one legged Derek”) took us to the Old and beautiful Cathedral. Spent some time looking around here (This is a bit like York Minister for those of you who have seen it)

We left Bourges around 11.30am and headed off on a journey (which was to be become the longest and most difficult with the lousiest weather conditions we were to endure on our entire trip).

The first leg of the trip from Bourges to Clermont consisted of motorway without incident. However having stopped for lunch at a motorway café near Clermont we met a Munster Rugby fan on his Goldwing who was returning from Montpellier (Munster V Clermont which Munster lost). Anyhow this guy is after crossing the Massif Central where we are headed and his report on weather conditions dampened (excuse pun) things for me big time . He said that he had encountered snow, hail and rain with “Slippy/icy road” signs along the way. This is when I wished I was on a simple CRRG spin down to Mullingar and not into Siberia ?

We left the Munster fan and the café and headed on towards the Massif Central. As the weather started to get misty I opted to put on the full rain gear which was a wise decision. As we climbed higher heading over the mountain range, visibility became very poor from the rain and mist. As we got further into the mountains temperatures dropped to 3c and the road became more winding with plenty of hair-pens and large trucks up my arse. We had to slow down but still managed to keep ahead of the trucks. Derek stopped at one stage to take a photo of roadside snow which he mailed to some of you. Pity the weather was so bad with poor visibility as the views along this stretch would have been magnificent.


Brief Stop while going over The Massif Central

We made our way to the town of Le Puy-en-Vetay still within the Massif Central. Rain still pissing down while we stopped for a coffee and to check our bearings. It was about 5pm when we left here and while the rain eased, riding conditions were still dodgy. We continued on to a small town of Aubenas and again difficult to find a restaurant but as it was still raining we opted for a Chipper. It was now after 9pm when we left here for the last leg of our journey to Barjac and our pre-booked hotel. It was now totally dark and the rain thundering down which made it difficult to see where we were going especially when meeting other vehicles. Derek lead the way and although we learned later that while the last leg was merely 35k it took us over 2.5hrs to travel this distance in what was atrocious conditions. We arrived in Barjac around 11.30pm with no idea where the hotel was located and having phoned the landlady she kindly agreed to meet us in town and drove in front of us to the hotel which was over 2k outside town.

We stumbled around in the dark and poor Derek tripped on some loose stones and aggravated his ligament injury. We finally got to our rooms around 12.30am (A very long and hard day)

Our Hotel outside Barjac (A Converted Barn ?)


30/4 Day 5 (Tues.)

A Thundery Showery start to the day. When rain cleared we got a Taxi into Barjac and pre-booked the return trip for 7pm. Spent many hours exploring the beautiful town of Barjac and enjoyed a few pints and coffees. Had dinner in The Capuchin restaurant and while still half way through the meal rang the Taxi to postpone pick up time.


1/5 Day 6 (Wed)

We had planned to go to The Foreign Legion HQ in Aubagne today (suggested by my son Dermot) as part of the legion 150th anniversary. Aubagne is located about 40k south of Marseille and 170k from Barjac . We weren’t discouraged by the distance cause at this stage we were used to epic journeys each day ? However other factors played a part !!!!!!!!!!

I was woken around 6m to the sound of thunder and my room was lit up by flashing lightening so that put an end to any plans we had to visit Abagne. The weather brightened around noon and we opted for a local scenic route. Derek’s leg was very sore this morning and wasn’t sure if he could get the “leg over” his bike ? but he did manage it without any help from his “younger travelling companion”.

First we stopped in the attractive little town of Vallon Pont d’ Arc for lunch. Derek rode into town flying the tricolour on his bike but sadly lost the flag on the way out. We didn’t stop to look for it.

That sounds like an Irish retreat ? I suggested that we go back and perhaps some good looking French gal would be standing by the roadside holding Derek’s flag without his pole.


After lunch we undertook a 30k scenic route around the Gorges de L’Ardeche of wonderful twisting and winding roads with fantastic views (great road for bikers).

Check out that famous arch on the web?

Fantastic scenery along this route with plenty of viewing points. Also noted a few of the local Biker enthusiasts sweeping around the bends like Michael Dunlop. (Alan ,Dermot JR this is the place for you)

At the end of the 30k spin we stopped in Pont-Saint-Esprit to satisfy Derek’s craving for a large ice-cream. (He was to have many of these over the following weeks)

One wasn’t enough

Later that evening we stopped off in the delightful little village of Montclus. This is a local heritage site and most of the original buildings have or are being restored. Many are unoccupied but we did manage to locate the one and only pub (must be an Irish thing !)
We had a final nightcap in a bar in Barjac and had a bit of banter with the owner who could converse in English. He told us about his Scottish friend and read to us a poem about Mrs Thatcher.

2/5 Day 7 (Thurs)

We headed off early this morning to Avignon (around 70k). Avignon is a beautiful city and you can see its ancients walls on the approach road. We parked in the middle of town and I changed into my shorts. Took in the obligatory tour of Palace de Papas which is a magnificent building with a long and interesting history.


We stayed around for lunch and then headed north to the town of Orange. My main reason for visiting Orange was to see its wonderful ancient Roman amphitheatre (location where Foreign Legion have “passing out parades” and where my son Dermot got his Kepi Blanc. The town of Orange (what we saw of it) was disappointing but the ancient Roman theatre more than compensated for this plus of course that beautiful dark haired girl that flashed her eyelids at Derek when she heard “his French Accent” Rem that ad on Irish TV “ I’ve no idea what you are saying but I just love your French Accent”


As we were returning to Barjac for our last night there we decided to stop along the way for something to eat. As we approached a small town (name eludes me). I take first exit at main roundabout while Derek takes 2nd exit. I had now broken one of our pre-trip rules . I parked my bike and waited for Derek’s call . “Where the F*&k are you” . Yeah you guessed it, Derek was “slightly” annoyed with me for not sticking to the rule “You follow me at all times” When he had calmed down we adjourned to a nearby bar for a beer and sandwich. We continued on our way to Barjac and stopped along the route to observe a local farmer milking his goat herd while his wife was presumably making cheese in the nearby creamery building. Well she did emerge wearing a white coat and she was definitely not the a.i person (CRRG members with farming backgrounds will understand)?


Farmyard referred to is located down a slight ravine to the left of the photos. A beautiful location on a rather quiet road. (Gary take note in case you are going that way)

3/5 Day 8 (Fri.)

We leave Barjac with mixed feelings (especially for the hotel owner and her overpricing for two rooms).We are now on our way to the ancient and medieval town of Sarlat-la-Caneda located in the Dordogne. Our trip out of Barjac took us south to Ales and then west to Mende through beautiful countryside with winding roads rolling hills and deep valleys.

While the distance on the road map appeared to be a reasonable and achievable we discovered that while not allowing for slow winding roads, the journey was once again perhaps too far ?.


We continued on past Mende to Rodez, Figeac bypassing Cahors. At this stage we had to re-access the route as there are more than one town with the same name and the last part of the journey comprises of minor roads and poor signage. We eventually reached the small town of Gourdon around 8pm but not realizing the name of the town, we assume that it is Sarlat. However after a brief stop and check we discover that Sarlat is still a further 40k away. We are once again riding in the dark and with poor winding roads it’s not possible to travel fast. “Oh if only we had a Sat Nav ?”

We arrive in Sarlat late and not knowing where the pre-booked hotel is located. We enquire and get mixed directions. We eventually get to the hotel around 11pm

Hotel in Sarlat which we had pre-booked

Sarlat We discover that it is closed for the night. (no night porter and front door is locked). Derek presses a bell and believes it hears a lady’s voice mentioning “massage”. Obviously it was the usual recording asking Derek to leave a “message” but poor command of the French language leads to various interpretations of simple words. Thinking that he has booked a “knocking shop” we head off and try to get alternative accommodation but most hotels are full. At this stage I mention that if we had a car we could at least sleep in the car. Eventually we find the IBIS hotel and book in for the night. It is now past 12am and we adjourn to the residents bar for a few well earned beers.

4 May Day 9 (Sat)

We are in better mood this morning and decide to stay another night in the IBIS. We are moved from 2 single rooms to a 3 bed family room as its cheaper but at the price of listening to Derek’s snores during the night.


We drive into town and are amazed at the beauty and quaintness of the old town (couldn’t believe this was where we were the previous night) There is also the usual Saturday market in full swing. We park our bikes and wander around the old town. Easy to get lost here in its maze of narrow winding streets. The town is pedestrianized for a few months of the summer, I wonder why as its nearly impossible to get any vehicle other than a bike in and around the narrow streets. Its definitely one of the best examples of a medieval town with the original city wall still in tact. No wonder it is the most visited place in France by tourists. Lovely old streets, fountains and in the middle of this sits the Cathedral. We wander around, stopping here and there for the odd coffee, beer and cigarette.

5 May Day 10 (Sun.)

We check out of the IBIS intent on finding a campsite and we don’t have far to go, about 6k outside Sarlat near the village of Vitrac. Here in a beautiful setting along the banks of the Dordogne river is located the 5 star camping site Domaine De Soleil Plage. We check in here for two nights and are allocated a berth looking out on the river. (15 euro a night per tent) This site has everything including heated swimming pool, tennis courts, football pitch, basketball area, wide open spaces and canoeing activities nearby. There is also a golf course down the road. (Check it out on the web).

And yes there is also a beach (possibly man made on the banks of the Dordogne). Our next door neighbours are an eldery English couple (again even older than Derek) and the lady kindly offers us two cups of tea. They also charge my camera. Electricity supply on site not suited to your travel socket (more about this at the end of this document).

We decide to do some touring around this area and for the first time on our break we don our shorts and runners for a bike spin to the delightful nearby town of Domme. This is a beautiful town (France have so many of these towns) and after a short stroll /limp through the main Street we opt for the tourist mini train for a more extensive tour. We have our evening meal here and head back to the campsite with 2 bottles of wine for the camp fire session later on.

Domme


Two Winos on tour ?

6 May Day 11 (Mon)

Having checked out local places worth a visit we set off this morning again in shorts and runners and pay a visit to the widely acclaimed Les Jardins Suspendus de Marqueyssac (Hanging Gardens).

This place is located atop a small hill and while parking can be difficult it can also be problematic for bikers as Derek learned when his wing overbalanced and tipped over on the grass. Thankfully no damage was done and both of us managed to lift it up. The Gardens or what we saw of them were magnificent with wonderful views over the surrounding countryside but the adjoining Chateau was disappointing.


We paid an extra 9euro to visit the Chateau which wasn’t worth it. However we had a delightful lunch there and then decided to head for the renowned La Roque Saint Christopher. Unfortunately our timing was poor and when we arrived at the site over 30k away it was closed for the day. We decided that as we were leaving the Sarlat area on the following morning we would include a visit to La Roque on our way to our next destination.

7 May Day 13 (Tues.)

The purpose of today’s trip is get to the town of Libourne near Bergerac and camp there for at least two days and take in nearby sites i.e La Dune du Pyla (largest sand dune in Europe) and visit the town of St Emillion.

Firstly we head for La Roque Saint Christopher and we were not disappointed by a truly awesome place.


Halfway between Les Eyzies and Montignac-Lascaux in the heart of the Vallee de la Vezere (listed World heritage by UNESCO) is this wonderful site. La Roque Saint Christopher cliff is a refuge built by the people of the cliff thousands of years ago. A display of how the original houses and city were constructed is on view together with an insight as to how they lived. Definitely worth a visit if you happen to be passing near that particular area.

We continued on our way toward Bergerac and our destination of libourne. As we approached Libourne we noticed a turn off for the village of St Emillion about 5k outside the town. We made a mental note of that for a visit there on the following day. My first impressions of Libourne were not great. However this was merely a stop over location and to add to my woes I was overcharged at the local petrol station but couldn’t do anything about it as I hadn’t kept my receipt. Anyhow as it was getting late we again opted for a hotel and found a delightful family run place just outside the town. (Hotel le Bon Duc).

A nice hotel and top restaurant operated by a young husband and wife team who were very friendly and welcoming. They allowed us to park the bikes in the back yard behind a locked gate. We opted for an evening meal there with some beers. Unfortunately Derek had another little trip and again stretched the already badly injured ligament. That meant that walking would pose a problem for him.

8 May Day 14 (Wed.)

Off this morning to visit the small town/village of St Emillion renowned for its wine. It is also a world heritage site and is believed to have been founded by the Romans and named after a monk St Emillion. On the approach to the town we noticed that parked cars extended for a long way outside the town. However we found bike parking easy enough. We spent some time on a walk around the town. The village is swamped with premises selling wine by the bottle/case load and also promising to deliver free of charge throughout Europe. It’s a charming place and also very popular with visitors from all over the world (streets thronged). The town is on a number of levels and walking around in the heat and in Derek’s case with a bad leg can be tiring. However we got to see the whole town including the ancient Church on the upper level where the Monks choir performed for the public.

As I had purchased St Emillion wine on previous occasions in Ireland I though it appropriate to purchase at least one bottle here. I paid 25euro for a bottle of Grand Cru. Problem now is how to get it home on the back of a bike ?


Around midday we re-assessed our plans and decided to abandon our visit to the Largest Sand Dune in Europe mainly because it was a little out of our way and also “One leg Derek” would not be able to climb it (Apparently that’s what everyone does when they get there). We opted instead to put some mileage behind us on our way back in the general direction of the car Ferry at Cherbourg. Somehow we were of the understanding that we were leaving France on 10 May (more about that later).

We bypassed Bordeaux and as Derek had chosen a campsite location on the Ile d’Oleron on the Atlantic coast near La Rochelle. Most of the trip towards La Rochelle was via motorway to save time. As we approached the island some 40k over towards the coast we found ourselves in a 5k tailback behind campers, trailers and caravans. However with the bikes this wasn’t a problem as we could filter and French drivers are very obliging and even move in to let you pass/overtake. The final entrance to the island is by way of a mile long causeway. The place is crawling with campsites and during a brief stop I think the long days of riding finally got to me and I had a rant at Derek about “Achill Island” type place and why the F*&K anyone would want to visit this place. We finally got to a 4 star campsite and booked in for 2 nights. Obviously I had annoyed Derek for the 2nd time but didn’t realise to what extent ?. We set up our tents in silence and as Derek had his assembled quickly he merely muttered that he was off to eat. ( I learned later that he was pissed with me big time over my outburst). At this stage 8pm we hadn’t eaten since breakfast. When I finally had my tent set up I had no idea where Derek had gone to. He texted me with directions and I promptly went astray and at that stage I couldn’t give a flying f*&k where I was . Eventually I found the main town of le Chateau and we met up and had a meal. (long days, no food and tiredness was really pissing me off). However we were soon slagging each other again as if nothing happened. (typical man row).


You will see f*&k all photos of this place as it was definitely the most disappointing place we visited and I still can’t fathom out why French tourists flock here in their thousands to endure long tailbacks in and out Ile d’Oleron. Perhaps some of you readers can enlighten me ??

However one small ray of light in this little island. I mentioned earlier about power outlets at many campsites not suitable for our travel sockets. Well we discovered a camping/everything store in Le Chateau run by an old couple (late 70’s). Here Derek found an adaptor/convertor which solved our power probs. The couple couldn’t speak English but the old man lead Derek & I into a huge store room at the back of the shop and here we were able to select the items we wanted.

9 May Day 15 (Thurs.)

We decided to tour around the island (Island is quite small) and we made our way to a little port called St Denis at the northern end. We were disappointed when we got there as it was just another place like Howth. When we were heading back to our camp site we got caught up in another traffic jam leaving the port. We decided to have one last drink on French soil as we were set to return to Cherbourg the following day for the Ferry home. I by chance text Denise at home to say we were spending our last night in France when she dropped the bombshell to say that our return Ferry was on 9 May and not 10 May as we had assumed. “ Oh Shit.”. here we are over 500k from Cherbourg and ferry due to leave in 20mins but without us.

Anyhow after a lot of deliberation “Cool Head Derek” suggested that we head off early the following morning to Roscoff and try and catch a ferry from there to Cork on Fri evening at 8.30pm.

10 May Day 16 (Fri.)

Did you ever get that feeling at the end of you foreign holiday when you just want to get outa there and be on your way home ?

Perhaps if I had been staying on some “Luxurious Island” I might have said “feck the Ferry and the additional cost of getting home, let’s stay here for another few days and make it worth our while”

However I was up at 7am this morning and had most of my gear packed before Derek emerged from his tent.

I must add at this stage that the reason I was up early was due to the cold even though I slept in my jeans with my biker gear thrown over me.

We were packed and left the campsite around 8am for the long trek to Roscoff. It was motorways all the way and on a constant 160kph + we felt that it was just another “slightly long spin” but easily achievable. However as we skirted the city of La Rochelle we missed a turn for Nantes & Rennes and finished up taking the longer route to Le Mans and then on to Renees. We compensated for lost time and the detour with excessive speed on the motorways and encountered more flashing speed cameras. At Rennes we switched over to a dual carrigway towards Roscoff. We had a few stops for refuelling and coffee and finally reached Roscoff around 5.30 pm. We booked our tickets One way + cabin to Cork @ 102 euro each. Boarding we were informed was at 6.30pm so we had little time to spare.

In the Bike boarding queue were over 60 motorbikes, A large group of Harleys from Germany, + French group and many individuals.


Boarding took ages and all bikes were parked on the lower level. The Ferry was Pont Avon which is a newer and more modern boat than the Oscar Wilde which we used on our way out of Rosslare. However the cabin was very pokey and thus the reason for the cheaper fare. The trip was uneventful except that I mislaid 200 cigs (65euro). I hear the non smokers among you saying “serves you right”

11 May Day 17 (Sat)

We docked in Cork at 9.30 as planned and were off the boat and on our way to Dublin around 10.30 am.

Motorway from Cork to Dublin is a bit of a disaster with no roadside café’s/filling stations except a detour to nearest town which we did when we got to Portlaoise for one last Coffee and large slice of chocolate cake.

We had a final ciggie break at Newlands Cross and said our good byes until next time. Overall, A Brilliant trip but some lessons to be learned along the way.
  1. Make sure you have a good quality sleeping bag. Mine was useless as I had to wear bike gear, jeans, and other items of clothing in the tent to keep out night cold.
  2. Plan each day’s trip carefully with particular emphasis on distance and terrain. A winding mountain road will take twice as long as the motorway.
  3. I know when travelling through France you want to see as many places as possible and therefore its best to plan a trip to last at least 3 weeks and maybe longer. Therefore you can take your time without any marathon journeys every day.
  4. Ensure there is no night riding (we had two long days over 450K and night riding)
  5. Bring a Sat Nav which will help lead you to your destination.
  6. Tour France a little later in the year than end of April/early May as weather is unpredictable.
  7. The best crossing to France from Ireland is out of Cork as its much shorter and when you arrive in France you have virtually a whole day to commence you travels.
  8. Fares on both Rosslare and Cork Ferry’s are pretty similar and if you seem to be getting a cheap fare from Cork, just check the type of accommodation you are getting ? You pay for what you get.
  9. The power supply in most campsites are only suitabe for campers/caravans. The standard socket is the same as that what you find on a car wired for towing a trailer. Therefore you will need an adaptor (a round 3 pin male into campsite socket with European outlet female at other end to accommodate your travel plug). These can be purchased in most camping stores for around 20euro.
  10. No enforcement of so called “Viz Rules” in France. We met loads of bikers during our travels and none had Hi Viz gear. Hard to say if they had reflective strips on their helmets, but the chances are they hadn’t
  11. Cost. You are probably wondering how this trip worked out on costs. Well suffice to say that had we been able to spend more nights in campsites we would have saved some money but unfortunately the weather in the early part of out trip was not suitable for camping and arriving late at our destinations also prevented us from locating a campsite (Sat Nav would have been a great asset). Most of the costs went on Food & Fuel and some on tolls if you are using motorways. However it would be wise not to map out too many routes in advance or pre-book as this merely forces you to get from A to B in a given day. While you go prepared to camp, be also prepared to spend some nights in hotels unless you don’t mind pitching your tent in pissing rain or darkness or both.
Well Folks that’s my version of events over the 16 days and I’m sure Derek will update you with other bits and pieces of info but he can be forgetful (at his advanced age) All photos displayed throughout the report were taken by moi and I have many more plus all the pics that Derek took with his iPhone. When Derek comes back from his hols we will gather all photos and publish them on the Gallery as soon as possible.

In the meantime stay safe and enjoy the biking trips.

Mick & Derek

15 May 2013

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